Madhya Pradesh panchayat polls cancelled days ahead of voting for first phase
Amid controversy over reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBC), the State Election Commission announced to terminate the panchayat polls in Madhya Pradesh
Amid controversy over reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBC), the State Election Commission announced to terminate the panchayat polls in Madhya Pradesh. Though the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress already agreed not to go ahead with the elections without OBC reservation, the state election commission late on Tuesday decided to stop the ongoing process just nine days before the voting was scheduled.
The final decision from the state election commission was announced after the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government withdrew the ordinance it had passed to hold panchayat polls. The state assembly on December 23 had passed a resolution against holding panchayat elections without OBC quota.
"With the cancellation of the polls, the model code of conduct, which was imposed on December 4, also came to an end. The commission will return the deposit amount of representatives of the first phase of the election," state election commission secretary B.S. Jamod said in a letter to all district collectors."
The panchayat polls in Madhya Pradesh are due since August 2019 and are delayed due to Covid outbreak.
The ordinance passed on November 21 effectively annulled the last rotation on reservation carried out by the Congress government (during 18 months of Kamal Nath led government) in 2019 and instead, the delimitation, rotation on reservation exercise carried out in 2014 under the BJP regime became effective for the panchayat elections.
Subsequently, a group of Congress leaders opposed the government's ordinance in Madhya Pradesh High Court arguing that, "Conduct of panchayat elections in 2022 on the basis of the delimitation, rotation on reservation exercise carried out in 2014 (instead of 2019) is the violation of rule-243 (d) of the Constitution."
After the High Court refused to put a stay on panchayat elections, the petitioners (Syed Zafar, a spokesperson of the Congress) approached the Supreme Court. On December 17, the Supreme Court asked the Madhya Pradesh government to denotify all such reserved seats in municipal elections in both the rural and urban areas and treat them as general category seats. The apex court stayed the reservation on OBC seats and directed the state election commission to de-notify these seats as general seats.
The Supreme Court has also instructed the Madhya Pradesh State Election Commission to follow the same direction it passed related to the Maharashtra government. In the meantime, the court also issued show-case notices to the Madhya Pradesh Election Commission and the state government and sought their reply by January 3, 2022.
In the meantime, five days winter session of the legislative assembly of Madhya Pradesh began on December 20 and on December 23, both ruling and the opposition passed a unanimous resolution not to conduct panchayat elections without reservation for OBC candidates.
On December 26, the Madhya Pradesh cabinet decided to withdraw the ordinance and the proposal was sent to the Governor Mangubhai C. Patel to seek his consent. Finally on Tuesday, the State Election Commission announced to cancel the panchayat elections altogether.